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Posted 08 August 2009

Red-Hand symbol of Ulster study claims Irish Chiefs’ Prize in History

The Irish Chiefs’ Prize in History 2009 has been awarded to Dr Benjamin Hazard, Louvain 400 postdoctoral fellow at the UCD Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute. Presented by the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains (Buanchomhairle Thaoisigh Éireann), in association with the History Department of Trinity College Dublin and History Ireland magazine, the award recognises original research on the history of Gaelic Ireland between 1000 and 1603.

Dr Hazard’s winning paper, ‘At Ó Néill's right hand: Flaithrí Ó Maoil Chonaire and the Red Hand of Ulster, 1609-29,’ focused on the origins of the Red-Hand symbol of Ulster.

In 1609, as the Ulster Plantation began, the Franciscan archbishop of Tuam, Flaithrí Ó Maoil Chonaire O.F.M., adopted the distinctive Red-Hand badge for his coat of arms and used it at the court of Philip III of Spain.

Sigillography - the science of the study of seals - concentrates on the legal and social meaning of seals, and the evolution of their appearance, as a source of historical information.

A striking example of this seal can be seen among the Franciscan collection at UCD Archives. The Franciscan collection of books and manuscripts at UCD Archives, which includes a copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, was made possible through the UCD-OFM partnership formed in 2000.
2009, marks the fourth centenary of Ó Maoil Chonaire’s appointment as archbishop and the 380th anniversary of his death in Madrid.  Dr Hazard’s monograph on Flaithrí Ó Maoil Chonaire, the first full account of his eventful career, will be published by Irish Academy Press in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy later this year.

The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains (Buanchomhairle Thaoisigh Éireann) was formed after sixteen chiefs, descendants of leading families such as MacCarthy, O’Conor, O’Donnell and O’Neill, were received by the then President of Ireland, Mrs Mary Robinson, at Aras an Uachtaráin in October 1991.

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An example of the Red-Hand of Ulster seal